So there must be a different — and more political — interpretation of the Chinese government’s handling of Bo’s trial.
It is worth recalling that purging him was a deeply divisive affair at the CCP’s highest levels. His patrons and allies could not save him, but they were well positioned to demand that his trial be conducted as openly as possible.
Given Bo’s gift for dazzling an audience, his allies must have felt confident that a spirited defense would serve him well, both legally and politically.
Bo certainly did not disappoint. He could have groveled his way through the trial, like other senior Party officials brought down by corruption scandals, and as most defendants have done in the long, grim history of communist show trials that began under former Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin.
However, Bo apparently is not accepting his political demise as a final act — in his closing statement, he told the court that he wanted to resume his CCP membership (he was expelled) — and a comeback calculation may well have motivated his spirited performance. Bo understands that he should not be perceived as a pitiful loser who gutlessly besmirched his honor.
By appearing dignified, defiant and forceful, Bo evidently sought to preserve his image among his allies and supporters as a strong leader. Denouncing himself in order to gain leniency — in a case that he portrayed as a grievous miscarriage of justice — would have made him look like a coward.
Bo may be heading to jail, but he retains some chance of political rehabilitation should things change dramatically in China. His botched — but riveting — trial may be over, but the Bo Xilai show will go on.
Minxin Pei is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and a non-resident senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the US.
Copyright: Project Syndicate